Froome wins Alps, deja vu all over again.

Froome, encore.

Note of geographical and sporting importance: the Alps are not the Pyrenees.

While the rough and tumble Pyrenees raised everyones hopes that Chris Froome (Team Sky) would be seriously challenged in the Tour de France, the Alps rolled out the same old script.

On two successive stages, Froome and his Sky teammates (the biggest budget, most loaded team in the race) slowly bludgeoned the hopes of Roman Bardet (AG2R), Fabio Are (Astana) and Rigoberto Uran (Cannondale-Drapac).

If you turned on the television coverage, you would have sworn it was the Tour de France circa 2013, 2015 or 2016. The mountain roads pointed up and at the head of the peloton, in their usual position, were four or five Sky riders all guiding Froome to victory and crushing any attempt at defiance.

The final climbs in the Alps were about waiting and waiting for an attack never really came to pass — unless you were Frenchman Warren Barguil who won his second stage and cemented his hold on the polka dot jersey of best climber. Breaks went and escapes were attempted while the riders in the top ten jostled for position, gaining or losing time, but the man at the top rode on, untouched.

While in the Pyrenees, Froome appeared less invincible than ever before, the Alps again showcased his experience, team strength, tactical wisdom and mental toughness. He never missed a move or gave any ground to his rivals.

Dan Martin (Quick Step Floors) tried to be aggressive and it gained him nothing. Rigoberto Uran followed wheels in the group maillot jaune and despite a promise to attack, barely turned a pedal in anger. Romain Bardet, by far the most aggressive adversary, put in multiple attempts to open a gap on both days in the Alps and pulled back a grand total of four seconds on a third-place time bonus. Chapeau but a very small chapeau.

How sad and frustrated is BMC’s Richie Porte? Had he not crashed out on stage nine from Nantua to ChambĂ©ry, it’s hard not to imagine that he would have given Froome a true battle for the final yellow jersey. Porte was sorely missed, along with a Nairo Quintana without a Giro d’Italia still in his legs.

Barring a catastrophe in Saturday’s 22k time trial around Marseille, Froome can be confident of winning his fourth Tour de France and sipping plenty of French champagne. The Alps, it turns out, are not the Pyrenees.

 

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